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Hollywood Is Captivated By Fictional Hackers, But Real Hackers Aren’t Entertaining

Hackers and HollywoodIt’s not an understatement to suggest that hackers are a hindrance to business. They take what doesn’t belong to them, and worse than that, they use that stolen information to make off with money, misrepresent individual actions, and ultimately, just cause a degree of added entropy that any business simply doesn’t need. Recently, with the hacker group Anonymous consistently in the news and dozens of corporate hacks resulting in millions of people’s personal information being compromised, hackers have been an increased part of the public consciousness.

On January 10, 2016, television producer Sam Esmail stood on the stage at The Beverly Hilton and accepted the award for Best Dramatic Television Series for the show he serves as showrunner on, “Mr. Robot”. The Hollywood foreign press had chosen the series for this award, despite the show’s non-traditional plot, which centers on an anti-social (and hopelessly schizophrenic) network administrator that spends his nights as a seemingly benevolent hacker. Earlier in the evening the show’s co-star, veteran actor Christian Slater, took home the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.

With the success of “Mr. Robot”, and other high-profile films and shows that tell the stories of hackers, there has been a suggestion that the entertainment industry unwillingly romanticizes hacker culture (not that sitting alone in a dark room, having a bad haircut, and wearing giant black army boots are actions that people would normally emulate). Take 2015’s Blackhat, a drama directed by Michael Mann. The movie stars one of the more bankable stars in the world at present, Chris Hemsworth, as a federal inmate (convicted of hacking) that is given a furlough to help his college roommate (and Chinese cyber warfare officer) solve a series of high-profile hacking attacks that cause destruction and chaos. In the movie, Hemsworth plays the role of anti-hero; a character that would be a villain in society, and makes good by doing the very thing he has been incarcerated for.

The representation of hackers as the good guys, or the popular anti-hero, is something that Hollywood has embraced for some time. Hackers are most prominent in movies about hacking, obviously, but they also show up in heist movies, and any other movie in which the story has a computer system standing in the way of resolving their goals. If the villain of the story is a hacker or computer, rest assured that the man or woman coming to save the day is a hacker; one of the only types of characters that can overcome a rogue hacker or computing system.

In reality, however, hackers aren’t as interesting or benevolent. Many of them will break down the barriers guarding your client’s and employee’s most sensitive information if they think they can squeeze a buck out of it. That kind of dedicated opportunism, and, to a lesser extent, schadenfreude, make hackers a deplorable result of computer systems’ prevalence throughout the culture. In Hollywood’s defense, hacking makes for a pretty boring movie, but human oppression or destruction, themes that you’ll find in nearly every good hacker movie, aren’t.

There have been dozens of movies about hackers that have been produced over 30 years. Some of them, like “Tron” and “The Matrix,” are science-fiction films that as a design, play with the concept of reality, while movies like “War Games” and “Hackers” present hackers as cognizant wrong-doers, but again present the act of hacking as a means to a heroic end.

Some of the most noteworthy “hacker” movies include:

  • Tron (1982)
  • War Games (1983)
  • Sneakers (1992)
  • The Net (1995)
  • Hackers (1995)
  • The Matrix (1999)
  • Swordfish (2001)
  • Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
  • BlackHat (2015)

How many of these titles have you seen? Do you think that hackers have been fairly represented in film, or do you think Hollywood has glorified hacking? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section beneath the blog.

At Excalibur Technology, we don’t glorify hackers. We fight them with proactive monitoring and management to ensure that, if someone that doesn’t belong there does try to get into your network, we are there to ensure your network remains safe. For more information about the steps we can take to keep hackers out of your network, call us today at (877) NET – KING.


HP Announces Battery Safety Recall and Replacement Program

HP Battery RecallHP has announced a battery safety recall and replacement program affecting batteries that were shipped with specific HP, Compaq, HP ProBook, HP ENVY, Compaq Presario, and HP Pavilion Notebook Computers sold worldwide from March 2013 through October 2016, and/or were sold as accessories or spares, or provided as replacements through Support.

Please visit this page on HP’s website for additional information and for a free utility to run to check if your laptop has a battery that is affected by the recall.

CLICK HERE: https://h30686.www3.hp.com/?lang=en-US#tab=id1

If you need any additional help or cannot determine if you have an affected product, please call the Excalibur Technology support team for assistance.


Microsoft: Windows 7 In 2017 Is So Outdated That Patches Can’t Keep It Secure

Windows 7 DesktopAre you still running Windows 7 on any of your devices?  Or worse yet, Windows Vista or Windows XP?  If so, then our friends at ZDNet say that it is definitely time to upgrade as the security in Windows 7 is completely out of date and unable to keep up with modern security threats.  Windows 7 went into extended support in 2015 and all support ends in January of 2020, but don’t wait that long to upgrade!  Many types of hacks, viruses and spyware can get into Windows 7 easily and are stopped dead in their tracks by Windows 10.  Check out the full article from ZDNet by CLICKING HERE.

Still running Windows 7?  Call the experts at Excalibur Technology today to discuss securing your network for the future before a costly security breech hits your company!


2 Free Tools That Will Read Your Text For You

Audiobook Utilities for your ComputerFor the busy business owner, audiobooks are a godsend. They’re the perfect way to intake information while performing a must-do task that doesn’t require you to think, like commuting or folding laundry. But what’s an audiobook aficionado to do if they’ve got a book or document that they want to listen to that hasn’t been made into an audiobook?

Well, if you’re able to obtain the digital text of the content, then you can use a few software solutions for reading the text back to you. Of course, the quality won’t be anything like what you’ll get from an official audiobook read by the likes of Morgan I’d-narrate-that Freeman, but it’ll make do for when you’re in a productivity pinch.

SpeakIt!
SpeakIt! is a text reading extension for Chrome that’s fairly easy to use. After downloading it, you will see a speaker icon on the upper-right corner of Chrome. With the webpage loaded that you want read to you, go ahead and highlight the specific sentences and paragraphs that you want played back and then click the SpeakIt! icon, and just like that, you’ll hear the text read back to you.

A few advantages of SpeakIt! are that its playback is smooth, and you can adjust the playback speed. The standard speed is 330 words/minute, but you can increase or decrease that speed by ten. SpeakIt! is also capable of reading back several different languages, and it can even translate text while it reads.

The disadvantage of SpeakIt! is that it doesn’t work well with Chrome extensions that you use for writing and editing text, like Google Drive, Gmail, Adobe Reader, etc. Also, several users have reported that SpeakIt! has a tendency to stop working after a minute or two of use, depending on the nature and complexity of the website you’re on. Reloading the web page will often take care of this issue, but this easy fix doesn’t make the issue any less annoying.

@Voice Aloud Reader
If you’re looking for a text-reading mobile app, then @Voice Aloud Reader is a popular option for Android. It’s available for free on the Google Play Store. Also available in the Play Store, are plugins made to enhance @Voice Aloud Reader, like @Voice PDF Crop Plugin which provides increased functionality for reading PDF files.

@Voice Aloud Reader works by uploading the text to its app, then, with the app open, all you have to do is select play and it will be read back to you. The text displayed in the app will retain the original formatting, and @Voice Aloud Reader will even highlight each sentence that’s being read so that you can easily follow along. You can also skip ahead by scrolling down or by clicking the >> button. You can even adjust the pitch and speed of the voice to suit your listening needs.

The advantage of this mobile app is that it’s compatible with a variety of different text formats, like the articles found on web pages, and files like PDF, DOC, TXT, EPUB, FB2, and more. Plus, whenever you upload the text from the webpage, it will upload only the text from the article itself and not any irrelevant content from other parts of the page.

Overall, it’s a highly-rated app with few complaints. The only downside may be the advertisements, but that’s to be expected with a free app. Keep in mind that, for a small fee, you can upgrade to a pro version without advertisements if you prefer.

There you have it. No more excuses for not getting around to reading that book or report, even if you can’t find an official audiobook!

Do you use any tools to knock out reading while you’re working on something else? If so, share them with us in the comments.


6 Tips To Avoid Getting Scammed This Holiday Season

Do not get scammed this holiday seasonThe ingenuity of criminals knows no bounds, especially when it comes to the holidays. You’d think that scammers would be merciful during this time of peace on Earth and goodwill to man. Nope. This is when they step up their scamming efforts, which means you need to be ever vigilant.


Here are six scams to be mindful of this holiday season.

Be Careful Where You Donate
The holidays are a great time to make end-of-the-year donations that you can deduct from your taxes. Unfortunately, scammers know how to play on people’s heartstrings and they’ll set up fake charities with slick online websites in order to scam you out of money that should be going to help others.

To make sure you’re giving to a legitimate charity, AARP recommends, “Before donating to a charity, make sure it is registered with the Secretary of State and ask how much of the money goes to the charitable fundraiser and how much goes to the charitable purpose.”

Be Wary of Fake Gift Cards
Often used as a gift for the person who “has everything” or as a small supplement to be given besides a larger gift, gift cards are a very popular gift to give. However, gift cards are also a vehicle for scammers to use. For example, how often do you see great deals on gift cards on online auction sites? As it turns out, those “great deals” are very likely for stolen, worthless cards.

The easiest way to avoid this sort of scam is to only purchase gift cards from a trusted, licensed merchant. Also, if you’re purchasing the card at the store it’s for, ask the cashier to check the balance of the card so you don’t get scammed into buying a bogus card placed on the rack by the thief.

Be Sure to Track Your Packages
The holidays are crunch time for parcel delivery services. For thieves that may lack hacking and technical skills, simply walking up to a front porch and stealing a package is an easy way to make some fast cash. They may even have zero use for what’s in the box, but that won’t keep them from walking off with your goods, just in case there’s a chance that it contains an item of value.

To prevent this risk, when you order a package make sure that your signature is required in order to receive it. This will prevent the package from being left on your steps for a thief to easily grab. Also, remember that you can have the package delivered to your work address if nobody will be at your house to sign off for your package.

Watch for Credit Card Skimmers
Some thieves even have the know-how to steal data from your credit card using skimming devices at ATMs and other POS devices. Therefore, it’s preferable to shop with a credit card over a debit card, and there’s a lot to be said for cash being a secure way to pay for things. Also, look closely at the device before scanning your card. If it looks like it’s been tampered with, then you’ll want to alert store management.

Don’t Fall for Bogus Deals
Finally, it never hurts to rely on some relatively timeless shopping advice: if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before completing any purchase that seems like the deal of a lifetime, make sure you at least familiarize yourself with all of the terms, and consider the ones that probably aren’t mentioned. No deal is worth risking your financial future for.

Be Safe Online
Finally, there are plenty of scams to be found online. The best way to avoid getting taken by an online Grinch is to follow best security practices. These include:

  • Before submitting any sensitive information, look for the padlock icon in the address bar, along with HTTPS at the beginning of the URL.
  • Only shop on websites that have a good reputation.
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi when shopping online.
  • Avoid using your debit card online. Instead, use credit cards and gift cards.
  • Be skeptical of unsolicited emails in your inbox, especially when it comes to fake invoices and bogus shipping orders.

By avoiding these six scams you can shop with confidence this holiday season. It’s also important to keep in mind that these scams are utilized by thieves all year round, so you’ll want to always be looking out for them.

Have you fallen for any of these scams or encountered any of them while shopping? If so, share with us your scam story in the comments.  For help with your security needs to to implement additional safety measures, be sure to call one of our friendly Technology Consultants at 877-NET-KING.


What’s The Main Difference Between Office 365 And The Traditional Office Suite?

Office 365 VersionsEven if you already have Microsoft Office, did you know that there are multiple ways to use Office which could potentially save you money? It’s the difference between using the traditional Office apps, versus the subscription-based model provided by Office 365.

Users and business professionals need to know that Office 365 is a subscription-based model, while the traditional Office 2016 suite is a one-time purchase. Yet, there are a few other notable differences between the two. Here are three reasons why it’s beneficial to choose Office 365 over the more traditional Office suite.

Office 365 is Cost-Effective
Small monthly payments fit into budgets much better than big up-front costs. This is a staple of software as a service, and it applies to Office 365. When purchased through Microsoft, Office 365 can provide users with a discount when paying for 12 months ahead of time, allowing for even more cost savings.

Office 365 Stays Up-to-Date
The traditional Office suite gives you the most recent version at the time of your download. For example, if you downloaded today, you would get Microsoft Office 2016. The problem here is that several years might pass and you’ll eventually have to upgrade to a more recent version of the software, like Office 2018–which can be another major expense in itself. It’s one big investment after another, which makes the subscription-based model more economically reliable, efficient, and easy to budget around. With Office 365, you’ll always have the latest version of Microsoft Office, without the hassle of purchasing new software.

Office 365 is More Flexible
Office 2016 is a one-time download, unlike its subscription-based counterpart. Office 365 allows organizations to achieve varied levels of service as per their user requirements or device thresholds. This helps your business get exactly the kind of functionality you need out of Office 365, as it helps to better accommodate growth.

Have additional questions regarding Office 365 or want to try it out? If so, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING. We’d be happy to help your business get started with your new Office 365 solution and handle all of the transition details that go along with the project.


Yahoo Hacked Again – A Billion Accounts Stolen

Yahoo Hacked AgainYahoo has been hacked again and over a billion accounts might have been compromised.  For complete details, see the ZDNet article by CLICKING HERE.  If you use any Yahoo service, be sure to reset your passwords.

How secure is your network?  If companies such as Yahoo, Sony, Home Depot and Target can get hacked with the amount of money they spend on IT, so can your company!

Make sure that your security is as strong as possible, have a security audit run at least once a year and make sure that all of your data is backed up to multiple locations.

Have questions?  Call the experts at Excalibur Technology today!


Why It May Not Be Worth It To Replace Your Server

Your Next Server Should Be a Cloud ServerWhen a business undergoes a hardware refresh, it often comes saddled with unexpected costs and downtime. This is sometimes caused by hardware failure, or from unplanned-for data migration. With the advent of virtualized servers, businesses now have a better way to recover from the woes of server refreshes. Rather than purchase new hardware, it’s more economically viable to go with a virtual server that’s hosted in the cloud.

Server virtualization is a great way to save costs and reduce operational expenses in the long run. Virtual servers can separate the computing resources of a server and allocate them within a cloud-like infrastructure. Server virtualization is great for businesses that have limited budgets and resources, since this is a responsibility that’s simple to outsource to a reliable third party service provider.

Here are three major reasons why you should go with virtual servers for your next IT refresh.

Virtual Environments
One of the biggest reasons to use virtual servers is that you can create multiple computing instances on the same virtual machine. For example, if you’re using a legacy application that’s only functional with a specific operating system, you can run a virtual machine dedicated to that application. This keeps you from investing unnecessary capital into an entirely separate server unit for the exclusive use of one application. Keep in mind that this also helps you limit the cost of operation and maintenance that would be needed for a dedicated server.

Save on Operating Costs
Another major benefit that virtual servers offer is the ability to host less hardware in-house. Servers use a lot of electricity and generate a lot of heat, making air conditioning a top priority for server longevity. High energy costs can put a damper on your budget, and server virtualization offers a remedy. You can consolidate your infrastructure onto one device with multiple virtual machines, rather than create a complex infrastructure of network components. This cuts down on your operational expenses.

Effectively Manage Resources
Virtual machines let service providers or IT administrators manage their workloads more-effectively. You can monitor and adjust workloads in a cloud-based interface in real time, allowing operations to progress unhindered. While it’s possible to have your own internal IT department handle this, it’s better to outsource these responsibilities to save internal time and resources for more important matters.

The next time you need a hardware refresh, be sure to keep your server infrastructure at the top of your mind. To learn more, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING.  We have a complete set of Data Center offerings to help you save money, add flexibility and work with a great team of engineers!


3 Easy Exercises Designed for Office Workers

Exercise to Feel Better at Work
You wouldn’t think that sitting at a desk all day could have many detrimental effects to the body, but the opposite is actually true: remaining stationary throughout the day, especially in a slouching position, can cause considerable stress and discomfort. This discomfort, in addition to decreasing morale, can be a distraction that cuts into the productivity of workers throughout the day.

If you’re experiencing the ill health effects of poor desk posture, try these exercises at home–you’ll see why in a moment–to relieve many of the negative symptoms by stretching out your cramped and compressed muscles.

Get rocking…
On all fours, carefully rock back and forth. When rocking back, your hips should move down towards your feet, extending your back for a stretch across the lower portion of your spine, relaxing the stretch when returning to the forward position. For an added bonus in your upper back and neck, nod your head as you rock, bringing your chin to and from your chest.

… and rolling.
Starting off by laying on your stomach with your arms above your head, alternatively lift your arms and use their weight to roll over a few times on each side. Be sure to use the weight of your arm to roll, rather than bracing against the ground and pushing yourself over.

Also, get back to the basics.
With remarkably few exceptions, human beings start moving on all fours. Use that as an inspiration during your next exercise and crawl forwards and backwards, focusing on moving your hips as much as possible. While moving backwards, get a good stretch in your neck by turning your head from side to side.

Hopefully, it is now clear why these exercises are better done at home. Unless your office has a dedicated exercise area, there simply is not space for employees to do such things, never mind how distracting such activities would be for the other employees to work around. Therefore, since these activities are intended to assist office workers in remaining comfortable and focused, this is a bit of work that people should really take home with them.

An uncomfortable employee is an unproductive employee–fortunately, the opposite is also true. Encouraging your employees to take care of their bodies will not only help them feel their best, but also help them remain more productive for your business.

For more office productivity tips, keep checking back to the Excalibur Technology blog.


4 Instances You’ll Be Glad You Had Disaster Recovery

Data Recovery Saves Your BusinessDisasters are commonplace in the business environment, especially when you work in a technology-heavy office. It’s not a question of if you’ll ever experience a hardware failure; it’s a question of when you will. Regardless of how your business functions or what sector you fall into, there will always be disasters that you should be prepared for.

In order to best protect your business from crippling downtime and data loss, we’ll go over four situations where you’ll wish you had disaster recovery for your data.

Natural Disasters
Your local weather channel might give you an idea of what the weather will be like throughout the day, but that can change in the blink of an eye. If your location is prone to floods and violent rainstorms, you could lose data due to water damage. Earthquakes can strike when you least expect it, destroying offices and homes and ending lives. Even something as simple as a power outage could bring about the destruction of your data. The point we’re trying to get across is that natural disasters can strike anywhere at any time, and your IT infrastructure needs to be ready to handle them.

Hardware Failures
Another recurring issue for organizations that rely heavily on technology is hardware failure. If you’re not monitoring and maintaining your hardware, it can be easy to let resource-intensive equipment get overworked, which inevitably leads to malfunction. Technology can’t last forever, so an untimely hardware failure could cripple your infrastructure.

User Error
In the same way as hardware failure, user error could cause your organization to lose data or bring down systems. The reason: people aren’t perfect, and you can’t expect them to be. People could accidentally lose track of files or hand over credentials for accounts which hold sensitive data, giving a hacker a clear path toward stealing your information. User error is a primary cause for data destruction, so it’s important that you implement data backup to account for this risk.

Hacking Attacks
Even if you don’t suspect that you’ll become a victim of a hacking attack, you’re a target. Any organization that collects sensitive data–be it financial information or personally identifiable information–needs to consider itself a target for hackers. All it takes is an installation of malware (like ransomware) to put your data at risk. Hackers usually either want to delete data or steal it for themselves, so it’s up to you to keep your systems backed up in the event that something happens.

Basically, the one thing that you have to remember is this: you need a way to recover your data, or you’ll suffer in the event of a disaster. We recommend that SMBs reach out to us at (877) NET – KING and ask about our onsite and offsite data backup options. You’ll have all of your bases covered… just in case.



Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology
Excalibur Technology